Investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure is a win for our climate, US workers
Transportation is the most-polluting sector of the American economy. Inefficient gas-powered cars and trucks release pollutants into the air, which are directly linked to respiratory problems and are key contributors to climate change. Fortunately, this pollution problem can be solved by electrifying the transportation sector.
Transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) will eliminate dangerous tailpipe emissions and it will bolster our fight against climate change. The cost savings of the EV transition will be profound, too. In tandem with a cleaner grid, achieving 100 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030 will generate $1.3 trillion in health and environmental cost savings in the coming decades. American workers stand to gain from a resurgent EV auto manufacturing industry, and building a robust national EV charging network will create good-paying jobs and stimulate local economies across the country. In fact, manufacturing and installing EV charging infrastructure creates more than 12 jobs per million dollars of investment — a higher job-to-cost ratio than highway maintenance or traditional auto manufacturing. Transitioning to EVs is a win for the climate, our public health, U.S. workers and the national economy.
Congress has the opportunity to accelerate this transition to EVs through targeted investments. Congress has already begun to supply funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which will appropriate $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure. These funds will be prioritized for rural and front-line communities, which disproportionately bear the staggering costs of climate change and poor air quality. Building hundreds of thousands of new charging stations will drastically improve EV consumer adoption, especially in the communities that will most benefit from electrified transportation.
The IIJA is a much-needed down payment on America’s long-term success in the ascendant EV sector, but additional support is needed to construct a national charging network and to ensure widespread domestic EV adoption. To build sufficient charging stations to accommodate an electrified vehicle fleet, Congress will need to invest at least $20 billion to $30 billion over the next 10 years. The federal government must also expand investment tax credits for businesses that build charging infrastructure, and it must bolster EV purchase incentives for consumers.
The Build Back Better Act (BBBA) provides an opportunity for Congress to make these additional reforms. First, Congress must expand the Section 30C investment tax credit. Section 30C allows businesses to write off up to $30,000 on their annual tax filings for each new charging location they install. This tax credit is the primary federal incentive for businesses to deploy EV charging infrastructure, but the $30,000 per location cap is too low to serve as an effective incentive for higher voltage fast chargers. Both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have proposed expanding the Section 30C credit, and both proposals contain strong elements. The BBBA should include the best from each: the Ways and Means Committee’s proposal to make the tax credit fully refundable, and the Finance Committee’s provision to replace the $30,000 per charging location cap with an extended and expanded $200,000 per individual charger cap.
Second, to achieve President Biden’s goal of “winning the EV market,” Congress must expand consumer incentives for new and used EVs. Consumer incentives can only deliver maximal environmental, public health and economic benefits when they are convenient and widely attainable. For that reason, consumer incentives should apply equally across vehicle models and manufacturers and should not be burdened by artificially low price or income limits. These arbitrary restrictions merely serve to deter EV adoption, limit the growth of the used EV market, and slow down our fight against climate change. They miss the whole point of consumer incentives by mistakenly treating the first driver as the sole beneficiary of the federal investment. Rather, consumer incentives are designed to promote economywide EV adoption, which will deliver vast environmental, public health and economic benefits to all Americans — even those who may never get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle.
Through the BBBA, Congress must further invest in the national EV charging network and in consumer incentives. Congress has a unique opportunity to deliver for U.S. workers, the climate and our public health, so it must do everything in its power to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector.
Dan Zotos is the communications director for the Zero Emission Transportation Association, which is a public interest nonprofit of 60 member companies advocating for 100 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030.